Stephan, a former Beth-El Center shelter resident, has a story that is very different from most other men who experience homelessness. He and his son, Jullien (who was four at the time), together experienced the trauma and difficulties of not having a place to call home.
Jullien's mother, who struggled with substance abuse, left him when he was two years old. Stephan, knowing he would always be there for his son, became a single dad. "Being a dad has made me a better person but I'm still learning. My uncle once told me that I need to have patience in order to be a good dad, so I've learned to be patient," says Stephan.
After living in Tennessee and Maryland, Stephan and Jullien came back to Connecticut and initially stayed with family. But disagreements on how Stephan should discipline his son quick¬ly brought that stay to an end. Father and son stayed at another shelter and even tried sleeping on a friend's porch. The struggles of staying in strange places and at times not even knowing where to go to the bathroom became overwhelming especially for Jullien.
Stephan was referred to the Beth-El Center by the Milford Library which was where he and Jullien sought refuge during the day. While the Center worked to quickly find space and transition the family to Beth-El's Emergency Shelter Program, they entered into our Triage Program for a week, sleeping on cots at night in our soup kitchen dining room.
For six months, Stephan and Jullien found stability and assistance at the Beth-El Center. Case managers Tomeka and Ruth connected them to resources for everything from daily meals to job hunting. They also helped Stephan find a preschool for Jullien where he thrived and made up for lost time.
"I'm grateful for everything Beth-El Center did. No one has ever helped me like that before," said Stephan. "Instead of just telling me what I should do, Beth-El showed me how to do things. I learned how to make phone calls and set up appointments for job interviews." In addition to helping him obtain permanent supportive housing through New Reach in New Haven, Beth-El taught Stephan how to budget and save money, ways to find employment and prepare for interviews.
Now as a single dad he faces unique challenges and is working through the healing process for both him and his son. "When you're in a position of homelessness, what's important to you becomes very clear," says Stephan. "I stay away from bad influences, appreciate having my own place where I don't have to share a bathroom and I focus on Jullien's life as much as I can. I'm now coming out of survival mode and moving into the rebuilding phase."
90 New Haven Avenue
Milford, CT 06460
The Beth-El Center's mission is to alleviate homelessness and hunger in the Milford area through shelter, support services, advocacy and community education in partnership with the faith-based community and public and private organizations.